After dominating the first three games of the series, the Michigan baseball team found itself in a rare hole, down 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Purdue had all of the momentum after hitting a three-run homerun in the top of the fifth inning, and the Wolverines made several pitching errors to give the Boilermakers some scores.
“We had a couple of uncharacteristic miscues, (but) there was never any doubt, this team is very tough” graduate student right-hander Joe Pace said. “We could be down, but we are never out.”
With one out and a man on second and third, fifth-year shortstop Benjamin Sems stepped up to the plate and hit a two-run single to bring the score to 6-4. The Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten) would not look back, scoring five runs in the fifth and eventually nine unanswered runs to win the game over Purdue (1-7 Big Ten), 11-6.
“It’s no big deal, we like (being down),” fifth-year transfer outfielder Christian Bullock said. “We love facing adversity head on, and we wanted a challenge. We know we have a great team and we’re going to battle.”
Michigan’s first three games brought hardly any adversity with the first game of the series resulting in a resounding 9-1 win. Fifth-year transfer and catcher Griffin Mazur notched two hits and three RBIs, and sophomore fielder Clark Elliot went 3-4 with one RBI. The mound matched the hitters’ impressive performance, as redshirt sophomore left-hander Steve Hajjar had five strikeouts with four hits over six innings. The pitchers gave up two hits in the final four innings.
“We have seven guys behind (the pitchers) that are great defenders, and it allows all of us to pitch with the most confidence,” Pace said.
After two innings, the Wolverines were up, 1-0, but the Boilermakers scored at the top of the third, tying the game, 1-1. Purdue loaded the bases with no outs, but Hajjar was able to get Michigan out of its predicament.
The game remained tied until Mazur hit his third consecutive home run with a two-run bomb over left field to bring the score to 3-1 in the fourth. The avalanche of scoring went on in the sixth inning as fifth-year catcher Christian Molfetta hit a two-run single, and they finished the inning up, 8-1.
The second and third games, a 4-0 victory and a 9-2 victory, respectively, went practically the same as the first with dominant performances on the mound and at the plate. Sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop drove in six runs in the doubleheader, including a first-inning grand slam in the third game. Bullock added a triple, double and single during the two games.
While the second game was a shutout for Michigan, the Wolverines really illustrated the strong points of their team in their 9-2 win in the third game. Redshirt junior left-hander Ben Dragani pitched five innings with five strikeouts without allowing a run. After Obertop’s grand slam to start the game in the first, the team scored another three runs in the second inning to take a 7-0 lead early on. Purdue managed to score twice at the end of the game, but by then, it was practically over. Michigan dominated from nearly start to finish.
“Everyone on the first day at fall practice you see how much talent we have,” Bullock said. “We have so many great players and a whole starting rotation that’s not even getting to play yet.”
While the Wolverines have played just two weekends so far this season, on the mound, in the field and at the plate, they are already demonstrating why they look to be one of the strongest teams in the Big Ten.
“Great pitching and timely hitting are a good recipe for championship baseball,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said.
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